Inside/Out: De Allegri & Fogale, Laetitia De Allegri & Matteo Fogale

The Inside/Out Lecture Series is a series of talks about the built environment. 

The Interior Design programme of The RCA School of Architecture organised a presentation by Laetitia De Allegri & Matteo Fogale of the design studio De Allegri & Fogale. 

De Allegri & Fogale are lead by a design approach that considers honest, premium and unconventional materials as well as functionality and longevity of the products. Laetitia and Matteo’s work celebrates the combination of industrial process and fine craftsmanship, finding inspiration in nature as well as day-to-day environments. They work across disciplines and industries on a variety of projects from industrial products, bespoke commissions, interiors and installations combining deep understanding of materials and making techniques as well as patterns, textures and colours. 

Both Laetitia and Matteo have a background in Industrial Design. Laetitia is from Switzerland and Matteo is from Uruguay. They both worked first at the well-know architecture firm Barber & Osgerby and after that worked separately under their own names. 2 years ago, they decided to do a project together and it worked out so well that after that they started a collaboration. 

For their projects they work at the Black Horse Workshop in East London. They like to make their designs themselves so they can do several tests and really feel the materials and the volumes. Other people from other disciplines are using the workshop as well, which is interesting for them because in that way they can learn from each other's skills and knowledge. 

Their aim was never to be good in one discipline. They are always interested in doing projects within different fields, like interior design, product designretail design, installations, … The red thread through their designs is the love for experimenting with materials. They really look into rarely used materials and find materials that look much more high-end and expensive than they really are. They love to take materials out of their context and create something different. It’s all about playing with the perception and the properties of materials. 

A first project they did together was a project for the London Design Festival in 2014, called -ISH. They started from recycled jeans. They wanted to give it a high class marble look. They sanded away the fibres until it became a glossy look-a-like of marble. It was a project about the illusion of stone look-a-like materials made from recycled and reclaimed post-industrial waste. In the end it didn’t feel like a cheap material, which normally is the connotation that recycled material gets. 

Aside from look-a-like-marble they also created look-a-like-slate with high pressed laminated paper, that got split which gave the natural stone look. 

They won the design awards with their idea and Cos approached them to design their window displays in London, Paris, Milan and New York, because they were launching a denim line. 

Because of the publicity they received from the collaboration with Cos and the design awards, M.i.h. Jeans approached them to design their window displays and their stores. With the M.i.h.’s 70’s heritage, free spirit and nostalgic, homey feeling in the back of their mind, they created furniture pieces playing with geometric and organic shapes and asymmetry. Again they used repurposed denim and other recycled elements such as yoghurt pots. These recycled elements were combined with materials such as brass and wood. 

For last years London Design Festival Johnson Tiles approached De Allegri & Fogale to design an installation that reflects their company. The location was on the bridge of the Medieval Renaissance gallery in the V&A. The brief was very open and without restrictions. They wanted to create something  bright. A play of perception, layers and colours. They wanted to create an experience and work with the actual space. Because they wanted to work with a transparent material, they made an installation with acrylic. The challenge was to find the sizes they wanted and the right colours. They didn’t want it to be just a rainbow-coloured bridge but wanted to go for a more elegant touch in colour choice. That’s when they found a manufacturer in France that they then worked with. Getting the installation structurally safe proved to be a difficult process. In the ideal world the elements would just stand on themselves, but it had to be calculated without the advice of engineers. After long discussions they finally found the most subtle solutions, which was having extra acrylic sheets in between the panels with were connected to each other with little metal connectors. For the flooring they wanted Johnson Tiles to make an overall gradient of blue tiles so they could show what their abilities were and how well they can control colour. 

After the exhibition Johnson Tiles wanted to throw the installation in the bin, but Laetitia and Matteo wanted to give it a second life, which they now did. The panels are now installed at the OXO Tower in London and you can see them until the end of February.  

For Salone Del Mobile 2016, they designed a pepper grinder and breadboards for ‘Makers & Bakers’ at Ristorante Marta in Spazio Rossana Orlandi 

And the last project they did was for Waste Not Want It by Bloomberg. De Allegri & Fogale were stuck by the hidden beauty inside the cables. In some way they wanted to integrate this material into furniture. They created a desk and seating from solid ash wood, which they made and steam-bent themselves. To keep some pieces together and to give direction within the texture of the table, they used aluminium shiny cables. This all represented the philosophy of Bloomberg, which is about transparency and connecting data and people.  

Hooke Park

With my thesis project platform, we went to Hooke Park, which is the Architectural Association’s woodland site in Dorset in the Southwest of EnglandWhen we arrived, we got a presentation about the history and the projects at Hooke Park from Martin Self, Director of the AA’s Woodland Campus. Many students weren’t there that week, so it was really quiet, which was a pity because we couldn’t see the people in action. On the other hand, this gave us a great opportunity to look around closely in all the buildings without disturbing anyone. 

The park covers an area of 150-hectare with 17 different species of trees. The trees and other natural growing elements are used for educational and designing purposes. It’s all about the construction and landscape-focused activities. 

The park gives the students opportunities to broaden their rural architectural expertise and to improve their knowledge of the self-sufficiency of the used materials. 

Before the AA arrived in 2002, John Makepeace used Hooke Park as an extension of the Parnham College and created a School for Woodland Industries, integrating furniture design with use of the surrounding materials. Makepeace wanted to make woodwork more bespoke. To start a school, you need buildings. That’s where Frei Otto made an entrance and made some hand-drawn sketches and gave the idea of buildings made of local materials. He saw the opportunity of making forest management more economically valuable, to use it in a productive way.  

Together with Richard Burton, Otto developed a master plan for the School for Woodland Industries.   

The first building they designed was the Prototype House in 1986, which is now known as the ‘Refectory’. They used spruce, because there was a need to thin out the woodland so other trees could grow.  

The second building on the masterplan agenda was built in 1989 and was the Workshop, which is a building constructed with a series of spruce arches. The building is excessively engineered with the process of bending the wooden pieces in shape manually. When working with your hands, you have a better feeling of the material and its capacities.  

The last building that was built before the AA took over, was Westminster Lodge in 1995, which was designed by Edward Cullinan Architects and engineered by Buro Happold.  

In 2006-2007 Andrew Freear and Elena Bartel proposed a master plan for the future of Hooke Park, which later got translated in students designing a new building every year, which they build and can use in the following years as well.  

2012 Big Shed 

‘The building is constructed from larch sourced from Hooke Park and local woodlands, and uses innovative screw connections to form the Roundwood trusses.’ 

2013 North Lodge 

‘The building has a primary structural frame of spruce sourced at Hooke Park that was fabricated and assembled using traditional pegged timber-framing techniques. The envelope is highly insulated with blown-in wood fibre, and is heated by its own wood stove and through connection to the campus’s woodchip-fuelled district heating system. The cladding is of timber slats.’ 

2014 Timber Seasoning Shelter 

The Shelter is made of beech, which is not often used as an architectural material. The purpose was to give back the value to the trees. A Norwegian boat builder created a steam-bent technique to bend the beech. He created a projecting machine which he adjusted manually so he could control the bending and have the correct curve bend.  

2014 South Student Lodge 

The lodge is made of a timber frame, clad in Western red cedar and reclaimed glass. It’s a play of building frames of potential volumes. Before it was built, the designers chalked out the volumes on the ground and walked through it to have a closer look at the circulation and how to inhabit, to embody the to-built building. 

2015 Biomass Boiler House 

The Boiler House is made from unused curved trees. It’s giving back value to those trees who are oddly formed because they followed the sun. A catalogue was made from each geometry of the trees. This is done by scanning them. After cataloguing the trees, it was a matter of composing them with the correctly fitting curve on top of each other.  

2016 Woodchip Barn 

Just like the Boiler House, the Woodchip barn was made from unused trees because of a malfunction. For this project the designers used fork trees. They wanted to enhance the problem and take advantage of the specific form, rather than to get rid of it. Also from these trees they made a catalogue by 3D scanning the trees. From non-standard-materials they made standard materials, and then made non-standard components from it. It became a digital exercise to compose the components and try out different configurations. They used the qualities of the wood to the fullest. 

After the presentation and the tour, I was already looking at the dates and how to enrol into a short summer course. It’s amazing and a dream to have so much space to really try out your designs and to realise a structure with your bare hands in the end. Despite the horrible weather and a long journey to get there, I was really amazed and so happy to have seen Hooke Park. 

FOSBURY & SONS

In the first week of December 2016Stijn Geeraets and Maarten Van Gool opened the doors of Fosbury & Sons, a co-working space in the WATT-tower in AntwerpDuring the Christmas holidays I had a chance to go and take a look at this new and much talked-about ‘it-place’. Because of the holidays the reception and café were closed, and there were only two people working, so I can’t give a feeling of how it is when people are actually working there, but one can imagine. The interior architecture company that realised the whole project is called Going East. 

The WATT-tower is a former electricity company office building designed in 1958 by Léon StynenLéon Stynen is called a Modernist Belgian architect, but I think he is rather a brutalist than purely a modernist. The bare concrete construction inside the whole building is a beautiful example of brutalist architecture. Going East called this project the ‘3000m2 concrete jungle’, which it is. They stripped the whole place to its core structure and kept the beautiful concrete like it was and in its raw purity, and built the other elements around it.  

When walking up a narrow little staircase one is greeted with a view of a big inviting reception desk. When walking further into the space it suddenly opens up with a 6m high ceiling. Light floods in through gigantic windows. The use of materials is very high-end and the style is vintage-meets-modern with a hipster touch. To give a nice contrast to the use of wood, steel, glass and textiles, they use a lot of plants to create a more breathable and viable space. I am absolutely in love with the play of different heights, different rooms, open-closed spaces, … it’s like a big inspirational maze.   

If I wasn’t living in London, I would definitely be tempted to become a Nomad or even share an atelier. I think this is the best opportunity to also get to know new people within the creative sector and to share ideas. 

 We worked with so much love on this total project. We did exactly 11 months from concept until realization. We built the space from scratch. There was nothing except the concrete. The big challenge was to create enough open space but balance it with private workspace. Trying to find the right balance between rough and details. And being consistent with our choice of materials. - Going East

Fosbury & Sons describe themselves as: “An office with a soul, an inspiring workspace where business, culture and leisure come together. A gentlepeople’s club connecting a community of entrepreneurs, digital nomads and corporations.” - Fosbury & Sons

© Photography by Frederik Vercruysse

EURODAL

My thesis project is about turning a car park into multi-generational council housing. A car park is mainly made of big concrete slabs, so as a sort of material research for my thesis project, I went to the company Eurodal, a Belgian manufacturer of industrial concrete floor slabs. I visited the company to have a closer look at the material concrete and how it’s made 

From the highway, I could already see the stacked-up piles of concrete slabs, which made me really eager and excited to see more. Philippe Segersone of the CEO’s of the company gave me a tour and a detailed explanation of the whole working process. 

At Eurodal they make the steel moulds for the concrete by themselvesThese moulds have a maximum size of 200x200mm. Different measurements are possible within the range of 200x200mm.  

First the mould gets a coating by a robot. This coating determines the finishing look in the end. In the earlier days, it was done by hand, but with the machine the coating is spread more evenly 

After the coating a steel grid is placed in the mould to create reinforced concrete. This is done to resist tensile stresses in particular regions of the concrete that might cause unacceptable cracking and/or structural failure. 

After that it’s time to put the mixture of water, aggregate, cement and additives in the mould. This mixture will harden to become concrete. Eurodal is a central mix plant which means they offer more accurate control of the concrete quality through better measurements of the amount of water added, but must be placed closer to the work site where the concrete will be used, since hydration begins at the plant. 

When the correct weight of the concrete is ready to be poured into the mould, the mould starts to vibrate, so that when the concrete sets in the mould, all the air bubbles can leave the concrete mass.  

After the concrete is dry, a robot takes the slab out the mould and adds 3 bricks on top of it, so the next one can be stacked upon it. 

Philippe explained to me which different finishes are possible and how they are made. They use mats with a certain structure that they put inside the mould before the concrete gets poured. In the product range they have brushed, checkerplate, wave and line finishes.  

Another nice feature he explained was how to make holes within the mould. They do this by using Styrofoam. When the concrete is dry they just knock the Styrofoam out and it leaves a beautiful shape.  

It was really nice to get a better insight into the process of creating concrete slabs and the different things you can do with the material and shapes.

BRIEF THESIS PROJECT

My interest for the topic of my thesis project started during the research for my dissertation about brutalism and a brutalist interior. During this search I figured out why I love brutalism so much and why I have such a big interest in this style.  

I like the way tower blocks are communities where all different kind of people are living and sharing at least one common thing, the tower, their building. The way this whole movement became an evolution of a certain way of thinking, of how we live together and how different cultures are brought together. 

It was all about the utopian belief in making new cities, making cities within cities and making a city within a building, creating high-density buildings. It’s about creating communities within a building.  

Aside from the positive thoughts the high-rise brutalist buildings brought with them, there were also a lot of negative critiques about these structures.  

Paved walking trails are pretty common in brutalist building projects. These ‘air paths’ for pedestrians were often places of criminality. Because of bad maintenance there were filthy slums, juvenility and the scary bits of society. In the end brutalism was often associated with poverty.  

Councils rehoused people from streets and neighbourhood communities, often breaking up extended families and destroying social links. The intimate association of house and street was ruptured. In particular, it meant that parents could not easily monitor children’s playtime.  

Peter Chadwick once said that there is this negative redundant space around the building which prompts anti-social behaviour. I can agree with that because I live in a 7- floor high brutalist tower block and I don’t know the people I live with because there is a lack of communication between the community. This is because there is not enough space, or at least space intended to start conversation. So first I thought about approaching this problem by creating little interventions within the communal spaces like the entrance, the elevator, the ‘air path’ and the roof. But this would become a too small scaled project, almost like a furniture installation.  

That’s when I started thinking on a largely bigger-scale idea. I wanted to reflect the positive and improve the negative elements of the brutalist high-rise interior into a similar structure. That’s when I came to the idea of a car park.  

You can’t go more brutal then a car park. A car park is designed for heavy and shifting loads of moving vehicles and the structures are made of heavy, chunky concrete. The structure of the building is left without any redundant ornaments. The building is there purely for its function. It is literally just stacking up floors vertically.  

Rethinking the function of a car park in London is actually something to really think about, especially in the nearby future. London is the most expensive city in the world to park your car. London has low levels of car ownership and it’s declining over the years because fewer young people in London consider having a car a necessity. Is there still a need for car parks? And what happens with them if they aren’t needed anymore?  

So I stranded upon this beautiful car park in Lewisham in South-East London, which is attached to a shopping centre. Lewisham is situated between Greenwich and Southwark. Why specifically that one? I had never been to Lewisham, but my practise mentor gave me the idea, because Lewisham is apparently upcoming and there is a planned regeneration of Lewisham town centre. A lot of new buildings are popping up and there are a lot of construction sites. I took the trainThe car park is within a 4-minute walk from the station. What shocked me is that there’s a waiting list of 14,000 people for council housing in Lewisham. So I really want my design to be council housing.  

In this car park I want to apply something of the way of the brutalist heroism to the idea of a new kind of interior, an improved brutalist interior, a Neo-Utopian interior.  

The built environment can be a challenging place for all of us, at every age and stage in our lives – whether as a child, adult, disabled, non-disabled, as part of our ageing population. How the home is affected as lifestyle and social/economic structures change through a life cycle is still a big challenge with the range of housing currently available. How does life changes from child to adult to old age affect the way we live? How does this approach the political and socio-economic side of living.  

In Belgium there is a new trend that’s called ‘Kangaroo Building’. The principle of kangaroo living is simple: old and young under one roof. The formula means that a younger couple moves in with an older couple. The original house has been converted into two separate dwellings. This has many advantages. For example, many young families that are inhibited by the high land and construction prices, can build. Older people, for whom their home is often too big when the kids are out of the house, can continue to live together "at home". In a broader sense, this means kangaroo is a win-win situation. The two entities enjoy each other's proximity and support each other. They retain their privacy and can still be assured that there is always someone nearby. As a resident of a kangaroo house, you decide how to live together-and-touch-apart- organizes.  

I want to propose a concept, plan, strategy, and building form that can work for people of all ages, paying particular attention to personal, social and economic changes in people’s lives over time. The aim is to foster more inclusive intergenerational communities. The multi-generation module will be designed to be inclusive for all, and can accommodate varied and changing life styles over time.  

It will be all about understanding the people – their needs, their concerns, and what they really want from a building – and engaging the more social aspects of the built environment that others overlook.  

It will be a concept that addresses the use of space throughout our lifecycle 

I will do this on the 3th, 4th and 5th floor of the car park and take sections as the Trellick Tower and Unite d’Habitation as inspiration.  

As my Artefact I created a construction of tetris-shaped blocks in different materials which are aging in 3 stages. “Generations” come in contact with each other and the open space between them is communal space to engage communication.  

INSIDE/OUT: ROBERTA MARCACCIO, DSDHA

The Inside/Out Lecture Series is a series of talks about the built environment. 

The Interior Design programme of The RCA School of Architecture organised a presentation by Roberto Marcaccio of the architecture firm DSDHA.  

When architects give lectures about their work they tend to show a series of photographs of their completed buildings: striking images (often devoid of human presence) taken by third-party professional photographers, suggesting a totally unproblematic relationship between design practice, physical artefacts and their photographic representations. This lecture unpacked the complex nature of the relationship between architecture, buildings and photography, to then introduce the way in which DSDHA, as research-oriented architects, experiment with the photographic medium; treating it as a design tool rather than simply fixing on glossy images the final outcomes of our endeavours. 

http://www.dsdha.co.uk/ 

CHRISTMAS AT KEW GARDENS

I’ve never been to Kew Gardens so which better opportunity than going to these magnificent botanical gardens during Christmas with a beautiful light show going on. 

It was indeed magical. A mile-long trail lead us through all these beautiful installations. Buildings, monuments, and trees were lit up.

CLARE KENNY, ENOUGH ROPE TO HANG 'EMSELVES'

By wandering around the neighbourhood after my visit to the White Cube Gallery, I stranded upon the Vitrine Gallery on Bermondsey Square where an installation took place of Clare Kenny called ‘Enough rope to hang ‘emselves’. Sounds pretty lugubrious, but isn’t really. The title refers to Kenny’s grandmother who was a rope maker. Kenny is a Manchester born, Basel-based artistShe works with found materials and neon lights. I like sculptures with neon lights so I would really want to see an exhibition of her with a room full of her work, because this was not so worth visiting. 

ANSELM KIEFER, WALHALLA

White Cube Bermondsey is presenting the work of Anselm Kiefer. This exhibition is titled, ‘Walhalla’ and comprises large-scale installations, sculptures and paintings. Besides paint, Kiefer uses materials such as straw, sand, glass, ash, concrete, rusty iron, clay, and lead. His work is full of references to historical events and figures, philosophy, and scientific theories. War, destruction, decay and destruction are major themes in his work. 

The main hallway of the exhibition was filled with rows of fold-up steel beds draped with dark grey crinkled lead sheets and covers. The lugubrious feeling was to resemble the one of the military sleeping quarters or a battlefield hospital.  

In the paintings he produces, Kiefer uses oil, acrylic, emulsion, shellac and lead on canvas. The paintings are enormous and so much is going on. I like the depth that is created by using thick layers of materials, creating gaps, spaces underneath piling of materials and the way buildings start to appear. 

The biggest room in the gallery was filled with vitrines that captured assemblages of soiled bleached clothes, stones, stacked metal beds, trees, a wheel chair and cut-out sections of the earth. They are sealed like fossils or unearthed artefacts entombed in glass. 

I love the way he experiences and the way he uses materials, but his work is a little bit too dark, sombre and morbid for me. 

The exhibition is still at the White Cube Bermondsey till 12 February 2017. 

RICHARD SERRA, ROUNDS: EQUAL WEIGHT, UNEQUAL MEASURE

I always see his work on photograph, and once bumped by accident into one of his works in Berlin, but never saw anything moreSo when I heard there was an exhibition in the Gagosian Gallery in London, I saw my chance to finally behold his art. Richard Serra is one of the most significant artists of his generation. He has produced large-scale, site-specific sculptures for architectural, urban, and landscape settings spanning the globe. 

At the Gagosian Serra presents three large-scale steel sculptures. 

Once I entered the sculpture ‘NJ-2’ it seemed like an endless journey within this beautiful curved steel structure. When I came out I was totally disorientated, especially because it was placed within a ornamentless white room. The use of Cor-Ten Steel is beautiful because of the rust over time and the oxidation process which settles to one colour after a few years.  

The art pieces are so beautiful in their own simplicity. 

INSIDE/OUT: HILDE FRANCQ, FRANCQ COLORS

The Inside/Out Lecture Series is a series of talks about the built environment. 

The Interior Design programme of The RCA School of Architecture organised a presentation by Hilde Francq of the Belgian trend agency, Francq Colors. 

Trend watcher Hilde Francq is a colour pioneer. Hilde started out in the bicycle business, where she introduced intense colours and prints to children's bicycles. They sold like hot cakes. This first-hand-experience convinced Hilde of the power of colour and trends. She wanted to apply her feeling for colour and trends to other branches, and so her company Francq Colors was born. She specializes in colour trends, working for clients from many branches: interior, fashion, lighting, hospitality, ... The company makes trend reports and consults on trends, gives seminars and workshops and supports companies with their marketing. 

The power of colour is immense. Research shows that the buying decision is to a large degree influenced by colour. Brands can build their image by choosing the right colours. So, it is important to stay on trend. To this end, Francq Colors carries out an extensive trend research every 6 months. Sociological, technological, economical, and political macro trends are translated into lifestyle trends, which are in turn translated to colour combinations, materials, patterns, textures and shapes. In a process that could be called 'reverse archaeology', Francq Colors constructs the near future by observing and selecting the right pieces of today. The result of all this is a trend presentation accompanied by a lengthy and richly illustrated trend report. 

Hilde gave an insight into lifestyle and interior trends for 2017 and 2018. Her presentation was built around six places, each one a metaphor for a lifestyle. Between The Monastery—symbolic for our disciplined approach to physical and mental health—and The Streets—the place of rebellion—she showed us how our lifestyles evolve and what that means for colour combinations, materials, textures, patterns and shapes in the next coming years. We received loads of visual inspiration. 

www.francqcolors.be 

LOVE FEAR EXHIBITION

Fear and love brings together eleven diverse design practises from around the world. Each has created an installation exploring an issue that inspires both anxiety and optimism. The exhibition presents a spectrum of attitudes to design and how it affects our lives.  

Fear and love steps beyond the traditional certainties of design, in which ‘form follows function’ and problems are ‘solved’. It suggests that there are no simple answers – that design is both part of the problem and part of the solution. For design to steer us through this century, it must be aware of its role in a complex world. This is new ground for the Design Museum, as it sets out to challenge perceptions of what design is and how it is presented.” – Fear and Love, Reactions to a Complex World. 

One of the displays that I liked was The Earth from Ma Ke Ma Ke was the most successful fashion designer in China. Ten years ago, she decided to stop producing commercial clothing. Nowadays she focusses on the traditional ways of making clothing. In her collection, The Earth, she presents nine sets from the Wuyong collection laid on a bed of soil. The installation represents a world in which we possess less that means more.  

Another display that draw my attention was The Pan-European Living Room from OMA/AMO.  
“In June 2016, the UK voted in a referendum to leave the European Union. At that moment, OMA/AMO rethought its plans for this exhibition to make a statement in support of Europe. The Pan-European Living Room proposes that our idea of the domestic interior has been shaped by European cooperation – between designers and manufacturers, and between trading nations. The average living room in Europe, the practice argues, is a product of that collaborative spirit. This room is furnished with pieces from each of the 28 member states.” 
It was a nice game to guess the designer and the country from each piece. 

The most beautiful display was the one from Christien Meindertsma, called Fibre Market.  
“Most of the clothes you throw away will end up in an incinerator or as landfill, while the ones that are recycled will be turned into materials of low value, such as carpet liner or movers’ blankets. One of the reasons why it is so difficult to recycle clothes is because there has been no easy way to sort them by fabric and colour. Christien Meindertsma has been working with the first generation of machines that can do that.  
Meindertsma began this installation with 1,000 woollen jumpers that had been thrown in recycling bins. She worked with two textile companies to machine-sort the jumpers by fabric and colour, demonstrating that the fibres could retain their value. Behind the fibre piles is a selection of material samples from jumpers with the original labels attached. In the sorting process, Meindertsma discovered that many of the labels were inaccurate, suggesting that consumers are often misled about what they are buying. Fibre Market is both a critique of are disposable, fast-fashion consumption habits and a proposal for a more sustainable future. 

This exhibition is really worth visiting and is still running till 23 April 2017. 

THE (NEW) DESIGN MUSEUM

In 2010 the Pawson office won the competition to oversee the transformation of the former Commonwealth Institute in London into a new permanent home for the Design Museum. The Grade 2* listed building, with its signature hyperbolic paraboloid roof structure, was designed by Robert Matthews, Johnson-Marshall & Partners and originally opened to the public in 1962. Driving the process of reclaiming this iconic example of post-war British Modernism as a contemporary cultural space has been the wish to preserve and enhance its inherent architectural qualities for future generations of Londoners and visitors to the city. The aim is a building that feels as though it has retuned itself, enabling people to experience what is already there in fresh ways. The new Design Museum opened its doors to the public for the first time on November 25th. 

The architectural process is driven by spatial and structural thinking, but it is also profoundly shaped by ideas of use. From the very beginning, the imagined epilogue of colonisation is playing out in the mind of all those involved. Lines are drawn and details developed, but all the time, it is the scope for human narrative that is being created.” - http://johnpawson.com 

I wasn’t blown away by the design, I liked it but found it not extremely impressive. I liked the simplicity, and the vertical and horizontal lines that continue throughout the building. I like the openness and the relationship with the beautiful roof structure. Spatially the design museum works although there could have been a bit more walking space on the stairs from the ground floor to the first floor where people can have a seat. Another thing that I liked is the use of materials and the use of light which created beautiful lines 

In the end, altogether, it is a nice play of volume, surface and light. Pure in its own simplicity. 

INSIDE/OUT: STEVE JENSEN, ANARCHITEC

The Inside/Out Lecture Series is a series of talks about the built environment. 

The Interior Design programme of The RCA School of Architecture organised a presentation by Steve Jensen of the architectural practice Anarchitec. 

Steve Jensen is an architect with 25 years experience. He calls himself and his firm "an archive of chaos". Steve came from the analogue to the digital age and saw an opportunity for this presentation to digitize and assemble all his analogue-age projects. He has this obsession to make things, to translate his ideas into reality. “I’m a maker. The way I work is about buildability.” It’s really difficult to understand the world and keep it simple he also added. It’s not all about purity.  

Steve talked about the reality within the world of design. We use other people’s money to create something. Each move is crucial. There are always things that set you back and problems you bump into. It’s finding a balance between financial pressure and creative response. 

He also said model making is the core of designing, it’s not just the plan and sections and mood models that are important. Also the technical drawings, the way things work. Contractors need detailed plans where they can zoom in and out. It’s all about bringing the reality to your conceptual thinking. If you don’t draw it, somebody else will design it for you. You need to think about everything. 

Big, Bigger, Biggest was the name of his presentation in which he showed the nuts and bolts of the design process from initial creative response to constructed reality in three of his (all built) projects. 

“Bigger is not always the best. When it’s little you have more control over it, keeping a hold over it.”  

Big 
Elemental

Shopping centre Leeds 
Bar/Nightclub 
Grade I listed building 
2000 – 2001 
85K 

Bigger 
Wilson Barb Residence 
Bethnal Green London 
Residential Conversion 
Victorian Conservation area 
2004 – 2006  
200K 

Biggest 
Vivienne Westwood Design Studio 
Elcho Street Battersea, London 
Design Studio & Offices 
2007 – 2012 
1,6m 

INSIDE/OUT: MICHAEL RIEBEL, HAWKINS\BROWN

The Inside/Out Lecture Series is a series of talks about the built environment.  

To kick off this year's series, the Interior Design programme of The RCA School of Architecture organised a presentation by Michael Riebel from world-renowned architectural practice Hawkins\Brown. 

Michael studied architecture and sociology and worked as an art historian and architect throughout his professional career. At Hawkins\Brown, Michael heads the “think-tank team, which develops the research part of the design process. 

The lecture was a presentation of the firm’s research on creative workplace design and layout, including studying movement and communication patterns via a grid of Bluetooth sensors to understand the disruptive quality of layout design. 

Forms of knowledge  

In his talk he highlighted two types of knowledge. The ‘tacit knowledge’ and ‘explicit knowledge’.  Explicit knowledge is like a book, where the knowledge is just there under your nose, whereas tacit knowledge it’s hidden.  

In tacit knowledge the transfer relies on social experience, trust and collaboration: Despite the rise of digital communication the importance of face to face interaction has endured as physical space is the ideal stage for tacit knowledge transfer.” 

He used the Matsushita bread making machine as an example for a true interdisciplinary effort. It’s a cycle of knowledge. We know more than we know. 

“What we perceive is not the physical space, but places that offer action possibilities to us.” – James Gibson 

Affordances 

When the research team of Hawkins\Brown looks at lay outs of the space, they look at the firm’s ethos, what sort of vibe and environment they work in. With that information they look at 3 points: 

  • Proximity 

How do people talk to each other? For example, a desk with bigger than 90-degree and round of corners allows people to talk more to each other. It’s just the little changes that make big differences. 

  • Permission 

When am I allowed to talk to who in the workspace? 

  • Privacy 

You can make a space private, but not totally private. How far can you can control the privacy? 

Disruption - Disruptive technology 

“Fun and engaging” offices with a lot of distracting activities like football tables and slides can be nice but how far can you push that? With simple elements, you can obtain an environment that encourages certain behaviour.  

“When you’re standing on a flat plane, nothing happens. There is no brain activity. On the oblique, you have feelings; you feel the force when climbing and euphoria during the descent.” – Claude Parent 

Prove it! 

To prove all this theory, Michael and the research team are using an application on people’s phones so they can track their moves and see where the most social hang outs within a space are when it’s the best time and where to meet the boss, and so many other data. They base their designs on this information. 

The lecture was really interesting, because we live in a world where co-working is the new type of working and opens an endless possibility to designing for the workplace 

http://www.hawkinsbrown.com/ 

FIELD TRIP - BELL RINGING

Today our platform tutors took us on a field trip to the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, the Queen’s Bell Tower at Imperial and St Saviours Church, the Pimlico Bell. 

The underlying reason of this trip was not to get us to do something with bell ringing in our thesis project, but to take us through this journey to see which aspect of the whole cult of bell ringing triggered or intrigued us the most and why.  
The bell tower is an example of a space that exists for an ultra-specific purpose. It has a rich narrative of ritual, landmark, iconic cultural status and, of course, the activity of ringing the bells themselves. The bell, its placement, movement and sound are inextricably linked to the space of the tower, its site, materiality and structure of the building itself. In a very physical way, the tower is a very eloquent amplifier of the object it houses, the bell, and the activity of ringing. This reflects our project’s perspective well which is all about amplification.  

Bell ringing includes buildings, structure, cultural, senses, … The whole day we talked with people who has an obsession with bell ringing, so this journey was to help us find our own obsession.  

The first stop was the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, which was founded in 1570 and is thereby the oldest bell manufacturer in Great Britain. First the foundry was located in Aldgate, but in 1670 they moved to Whitechapel Road, where the foundry is still located nowadays.  The manufacturer made one of the most famous bells in the world, Big Ben is the biggest bell ever cast at Whitechapel, and the gauge used to make the mould for the bell still hangs on the wall of the foundry moulding shop to this day. 

What intrigued me the most about the whole process of bell making is the number of people and processes that’s needed to make one big bell.  

After the Bell Foundry, we went to the Queen’s Bell Tower at Imperial College to observe the master bell ringers ring the bells in honour of Prince Charles’ BirthdayThe Queen's Tower is all that remains of the Imperial Institute, which was built to mark Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee in 1887. We did 324 steps from the ground to the base of the dome. The internal wooden structure of the dome is beautiful and is an interesting example of Victorian craftsmanship. From this floor, there is an astonishing, uninterrupted view of London in all directions. The belfry contains the Alexandra Peal of bells which consists 10 bells. The largeness of the bells is overwhelming. For the first part, we could stay on the stairs next to the bells, but I forgot my earplugs so I followed the bell ringing from the level below where 10 people were pulling up and down the ropes in a certain rhythm. The ropes have a Sally, which is the tufted handgrip on the rope, used to pull at handstroke. When the bells were ringing, the whole tower started shaking. I was surprised by the amount of strength, coordination and ritual that goes into the whole bell ringing. 

After the ‘concert’, we went to the St Saviours Church in Pimlico where a lady explained the diagrams of method ringing. Each bell strikes once in every sequence, or change, and repetition is avoided. I still don’t really understand it, but I think it asks a lot of practice. We also rang a bell ourselves, which is more difficult than it looks, because there is a certain rhythm you need to obtain. 

To end the day we talked about the bell ringing experience over a glass of wine with some nice jazzy tones in the background at Wilton’s Music Hall in Whitechapel. 

THESIS PROJECT

Second year and last year of my masters means thesis project! To start our thesis projects, our class got divided into five different platforms; matter, urbanism, display, systems, and obsolescence. Each platform has its own brief. Each brief is designed to be a provocation. They are designed to challenge our thoughts and allow us to engage with exploring a distinctive aspect of the design of interior space by creating our own thesis project out of each brief. 

We needed to give a top 5 of the platforms and in the end of the day we were informed in which platform we ended up. I was really happy because I got into platform Matter which was my top choice [Symbool]! We are 5 students in our platform and it is led by the founders of the design studio Studio Alt ShiftShai Akram & Andrew Haythornthwaite. 

The Matter Brief – 

Project: Context  

This platform calls for a fully embodied design process in which knowledge and experience are entirely assimilated within the imagined environment and are returned through material and encounter. The outcomes will be 1:1 scale, built to amplify a particular action or sensation.  

Design education largely focuses on the skills to imagine activities in a space and communicate those visually so that others can imagine it too. This platform focuses on experiencing first-hand the spaces you imagine – constructed and tested at real scale.  

We regard the building process as a performance/ experience that is equally rich as the built outcome. Material choice and construction methods are inextricably linked to a physical functional layout and the ideas that drive the project.  

The capacity to rethink, reinvent, co-opt and integrate existing processes into new contexts is an activity that requires active participation. David Pye wrote that the difference between craft and design is that craft seeks to flawlessly repeat whereas design seeks to find unknown possibilities.  

Model making, drawing and prototyping are vital skills to develop as a means to visualise and evaluate ideas. These skills allow ideas to become physical and by doing so the abstract findings of experiments and theory can find a tangible outcome / application.  

Final projects will be unexpected and extraordinary spaces – solutions that are driven by the unique parameters of each student brief - possibilities include a pavilion, a landmark, a set for a performance, a public engagement installation, a workplace of the future or a living space. The outcomes will be 1:1 scale environments/ installations that can be physically experienced- resulting in a series of site-specific objects, experiences, interventions and narratives.  

Project: Amplifiers  

We look closely at the connection between experience, material and space, and translate this relationship into a physical, experience-able outcome. The programme will ask you to deeply consider the effect of material on a space and to become fully conversant with your material palette, exerting complete control and mastery of construction.  

The Amplifiers are all about themselves and their site. They are interventions that are a kind of theatre – bringing a particular idea to focus sharply, they are specific and non-generic. There are many parallels between this project and the convention of a pavilion. Pavilions are commonly considered to be a building or similar structure used for a specific purpose. The Amplifiers go one step further and aim to heighten awareness of a particular aspect of the site/s- view, sound, smell, temperature, what happens there, etc. There might be one space with a programme of activities or many sites linked by a single idea. These are not mundane everyday space; these are destinations designed to provoke a particular sensation or idea.  

The aims and objectives of this platform are to:  

  • Examine how experience, context and inhabitation can be translated into eloquent spatial proposals through materiality, scale and structure.  

  • Conceptualise design ideas and processes, and rigorously transform them into advanced- level detailed constructions and/or spaces.  

  • Develop a series of built prototypes at 1:1 scale interrogating the physical experience of abstract ideas.  

  • Produce a series of interventions, insertions, installations into carefully considered sites around London, that will reflect and amplify a pre-defined activity / brief.  

  • Communicate your ideas through the appropriate mediums of designed spaces and experiences.  

First Press!! - De Standaard Magazine

Two weeks ago, An Bogaerts, A Belgian journalist approached me to do an interview about brutalism and why it’s so trending amongst my generation. The article appeared in the weekend addition of De Standaard, a Flemish Belgian newspaper. You can read it through the attached link with the English translation underneath the article.